"An affectionate homage...a loving reconstruction of an era of storytelling now lost." —The New York Times
"[A] triumph...If a writer is going to put on Stevenson’s voice, he’d better, as the poets say, 'bring it.' Reader, Doyle has brought it...Adventures is a tonic for our bitter times." —Washington Post
The young Robert Louis Stevenson, living in a boarding house in San Francisco in the 19th century while waiting for his beloved’s divorce from her feckless husband, dreamed of writing a soaring novel about his landlady’s adventurous and globe-trotting husband—but he never got around to it. And very soon thereafter he was married, headed home to Scotland, and on his way to becoming the most famous novelist in the world, after writing such classics as Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Kidnapped.
But now Brian Doyle brings Stevenson’s untold tale to life, braiding the adventures of seaman John Carson with those of a young Stevenson, wandering the streets of San Francisco, gathering material for his fiction, and yearning for his beloved across the bay. An adventure tale, an elegy to one of the greatest writers of our language, a time-traveling plunge into The City by the Bay during its own energetic youth, The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World is entertaining, poignant, and sensual.
If fans of Robert Louis Stevenson want to read Doyle's latest novel, they should not be misled by the word "adventures" in the title. The book is actually a subtle contemplation, told through the eyes of a young Stevenson, as he passes a year at a boarding house in San Francisco. There he waits for his sweetheart to divorce her unfaithful husband, earning money for his future wedding by writing. His favorite inspiration is the owner of the boarding house, Mrs. Carson, and her husband, Mr. John Carson. As he listens to their tales of traveling the world, he reflects on his life, his future, and the kind of writer he wants to be. Readers looking for a thrilling adventure story would be better off rereading Kidnapped or Treasure Island, but, as Doyle's Stevenson narrates, he is aware of the quietness of his story and is not afraid of drawing attention to it. While the book could perhaps have a more apt title, anyone looking for rich prose and a unique perspective on one of the world's most beloved authors will enjoy Doyle's characterization. A fine homage to the writing of Stevenson that will suck you into the mind of a working writer.